Kangaroo versus Kobe: Can Aussie protein take on premium beef in Japan?

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Macro Meats boss Ray Borda hands out Samples of kangaroo at FoodEx Japan.
Macro Meats boss Ray Borda hands out Samples of kangaroo at FoodEx Japan.

Related tags Beef

Increasingly health conscious Japanese consumers can be persuaded to skip Kobe beef in favour of top-of-the-range kangaroo, claims a pioneer of the Australian industry.

Macro Meats boss Ray Borda has spent 30 years persuading regulators and consumers of the benefits of kangaroo protein.

And after seeing his business soar on the back of domestic acceptance, European expansion and South East Asian growth, his next target market is Japan.

Speaking to us at the FoodEx Japan show in Tokyo, which the firm attended for the first time, he said at present only 10% of exports were going to the Far East.

But he said recent consumer research found that 88% of 18-36 year-olds were accepting of kangaroo products, a number that drops to 30% for the over 55s.

“That shows the potential we have among younger consumers,”​ he said.

“I’d say that people in their 20s will be very open to eating premium kangaroo, which is leaner and far more healthy than Kobe beef, which has a far higher fat content.”

Operate sustainably

The firm, which has largest retail distribution of wild game kangaroo meat, as well as food service and wholesale operations, said it was vital it stressed the health and sustainability of its products.

We aim to showcase kangaroo meat as a premium product for health conscious and flavour-loving consumers,” ​he said.

"But we also have to show we operate sustainably. We have a quota to cull 8.5m animals a year, and of the four most abundant species, there is an adult population of 60m. Furthermore, we only cull the males."

“It’s very easy for the animal rights activists to cloud the picture by saying we are slaughtering the joeys, but we have proved time and time again that we operate very responsibly and its important for consumers in Japan to know that, as well as everyone else.”

In addition to Japan’s growth potential, Borda is hopeful that China will finally allow kangaroo meat sales later this year.

“But then I’ve thought that every year for the past 13 years,”​ he joked.

“Hopefully that will finally happen in 2017 and this will gives us another fantastic opportunity.”

Borda stressed he wouldn’t be targeting big volume sales in China, but that it would be positioned as a premium product with a strong marketing message around the health benefits.

“We think it will become a very exclusive and sought-after product,”​ he said, “as well as a new and healthy source of protein for the growing population.”

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